Monthly Archive for December, 2007

New Year’s Resignation

This is somewhat of a tangent for this blog, but I like the perspective this article brings.
New Year’s Resignation

God … Demands All or Nothing

After a man is convinced that he can be filled with the Spirit he must desire to be. To the interested inquirer I ask these question: Are you sure that you want to be possessed by a Spirit Who, while He is pure and gentle and wise and loving, will yet insist upon being Lord of your life? Are you sure you want your personality to be taken over by One Who will require obedience to the written Word? Who will not tolerate any of the self-sins in your life: self-love, self-indulgence? Who will not permit you to strut or boast or show off? Who will take the direction of your life away from you and will reserve the sovereign right to test you and discipline you? Who will strip away from you many loved objects which secretly harm your soul?

Unless you can answer an eager ‘Yes’ to these questions you do not want to be filled.

How many authors are willing to say this nowadays? (Tozer wrote this in 1957.) Paul preached Christ crucified to the Corinthians which was foolishness to them. Jesus asks us to count the cost. He turned away the rich ruler (Luke 18:18-27). How many of us try to make it easy for others to be saved only for them to fall away because they didn’t count the cost?

Grace has become… cheap. We are busy these days proving to the world that they can have all the benefits of the Gospel without any of the inconvenience to their customary way of life. It’s ‘all this and heaven too.’

“What Would Jesus Do?”

So often when a Christian is faced with a problematic situation, he is told to ask himself, ‘What would Jesus do in this situation?’ That is not always a wise question to ask. A better question would be, ‘What would Jesus have me do in this situation?’

(This book was written before the What Would Jesus Do? fad.)

Titus 3:1-2
Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people.

Treasuring the Trinity

Pitchford’s Ramblings has a good, concise article on the Biblical basis for the Doctrine of the Trinity:
Treasuring the Trinity

Top Christian Book Lists

Those of you who are into books may find these lists interesting:

Westminster Bookstore Top Ten Books of 2007

Favorite Books I Read In 2007…What About You?Tullian Tchividjian

My Top 7 Books of 2007 – Challies.com

Top Books of 2007 at adoption-through-propitiation (what a great blog name)
Scroll down on that page to find more lists.

Update:
Best Christian Books of 2007
Scroll down on that page to find more lists.

For what’s it’s worth, my top five books:

  1. The Pursuit of God: The Human Thirst for the Divine by A.W. Tozer
  2. Knowing God by J.I. Packer
  3. The Lord by Romano Guardini
  4. The Gospel According to Job: An Honest Look at Pain and Doubt from the Life of One Who Lost Everything by Mike Mason
  5. Studies in the Sermon on the Mount by David Martyn Lloyd-Jones

Favorite books I read in 2007 (not written in 2007):

  1. Cries of The Heart by Ravi Zacharias
  2. Romans (Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament) by Thomas Schreiner
  3. 1 Corinthians (Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament) by David Garland
  4. 2 Corinthians (New American Commentary) by David Garland
  5. God on Mute: Engaging the Silence of Unanswered Prayer by Pete Grieg
  6. The Knowledge of the Holy: The Attributes of God: Their Meaning in the Christian Life by A.W. Tozer

Books to read in 2008:

  1. Polishing God’s Monuments: Pillars of Hope for Punishing Times by Jim Andrews
  2. Trusting God: Even When Life Hurts by Jerry Bridges
  3. Suffering and the Sovereignty of God by John Piper et. all
  4. Praying Backwards: Transform Your Prayer Life by Beginning in Jesus Name by Bryan Chapell
  5. I Will Follow You, O God: Embracing Him as Lord in Your Private Worship by Jerry Bridges
  6. Living the Cross Centered Life: Keeping the Gospel the Main Thing by C.J. Mahaney
  7. Word Biblical Commentary Vol. 41, Galatians by Richard N. Longenecker
  8. The Letter to the Ephesians (Pillar New Testament Commentary) by Peter O’Brien
  9. Colossians & Philemon by R.C. Lucas
  10. Paul’s Letter to the Philippians (New International Commentary on the New Testament) by Gordon Fee

Stinkers:

  1. Abandonment to divine providence – Jean Pierre de Caussade
  2. The Release of the Spirit by Watchman Nee
  3. Prayer by Richard Foster

As a tangent, I’ve become interested in reading more about the (negatively stereotyped) Puritans like Richard Baxter, John Owen etc. If you’re interested here is a post to get you started:
Puritans, We Greet Thee in 2008
Updated Link:
Join the 2008 Puritan Reading Challenge!

If there are other lists out there or if you have your own, please post them here.

2 Corinthians 12:8 – Prayer

2 Corinthians

2 Corinthians 12:8-9
So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. 8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

Three times he pleaded for his affliction to be taken away. This is reminiscent of Jesus praying three times in Gethsemane. “So, leaving them again, he went away and prayed for the third time, saying the same words again.” (Matthew 26:44) “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” (Matthew 26:39 b)

We can see that Jesus and Paul were persistent in prayer. Maybe there is significance in comparing the fact that Paul and Jesus both prayed three times but that isn’t a magic formula. Jesus may have prayed that same thing many times before that night. And Paul received a definite answer after three times.

The parables that illustrate persistence in prayer are the impudent friend in Luke 11:5-10 and the bothersome widow in Luke 18:1-8.

Both Jesus and Paul got an answer of “no” to one of their most fervent prayers. This should give us comfort when we and our loved ones don’t get what we wish.

But by no means is that the end of it. God accomplished in Paul and Jesus much more after an answer of “no” than anyone would imagine. God is good (Nahum 1:7) and His will is perfect (Romans 12:2).

Ephesians 3:20 says, “Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us,” I never thought that this could apply to the answer of “no” until now.

As far as our prayers go, in his commentary on 2 Corinthians Garland says, “Calvin explains that there are two kinds of answers to prayer:

We ask without qualification for those things about which we have sure promise, such as the perfecting of God’s kingdom and the hallowing of His name, the forgiveness of sins and everything profitable* to us. But when we imagine that God’s kingdom can and indeed must be furthered in such and such a way, or that this or that is necessary for the hallowing of His name, we are often mistaken, just as, in the same way, we are often deluded as to what in fact tends to our own welfare.

We can ask with full confidence for what is certainly promised to us, but ‘we cannot prescribe the means.’ God may grant the end that we ask for in prayer, but God may use a means that we do not desire.”

*I’m guessing his definition of “profitable” may be different than what we may think.

2 Corinthians 11:30-33 – Lowered in a basket

2 Corinthians

2 Corinthians 11:30-32
If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness. 31 The God and Father of the Lord Jesus, he who is blessed forever, knows that I am not lying. 32 At Damascus, the governor under King Aretas was guarding the city of Damascus in order to seize me, 33 but I was let down in a basket through a window in the wall and escaped his hands.

What do verses 32-33 have to do with 30-31? The translators didn’t put a paragraph break there. Is this an example of Paul’s supposedly helter-skelter writing? For some it may be obvious or you’ve already come to understand it one way or another but for me and others I’d like to write about it.

I’d like to gather some points by Garland from his commentary on 2 Corinthians and a thought or two of my own.

Garland mentions that 11:30-12:10 are the demonstrations of his weakness.

It may seem abrupt to us because he switches from comparisons with the “super apostles” and his catalog of hardships and switches to this subject.

11:32-33 is a narrative event in contrast to the listing of his sufferings. But it’s not just a narrative of a historical event in his ministry. It’s an example of weakness. Garland says, “Hiding in a basket is not something that someone with power would do, and the incident occurs at the very beginning of his ministry. It serves a a paradigm, as it were, for what was to come.” Imagine how you would feel hiding in a basket in fear of your life. (Acts 9:25)

In contrast, according to Aulus Gellius, “the special distinction of a mural crown belonged to the man who had been first to climb the wall.” (Attic Nights 5.6.16) Garland says, “The ‘wall crown’ (corona muralis), one of the highest Roman military honors, was presented to the first soldier to go up and over the wall of an enemy city.” This would not have been lost on the Corinthians. Yet again Paul is emphasizing suffering and weakness to get the message of the cross through to the Corinthians.

This reminds me of the indoor artificial climbing walls. If you climb to the top you’ve succeeded. You made it up with your own skill and under your own strength. Yay! If you slip or lose your strength then the dreaded rope catches you and you are lowered back down in defeat. It’s all in fun if not taken too seriously but it may serve as an example of the contrast.

Garland says, “We should not overlook, however, that Paul’s escape parallels similar escapes in the Bible. The Israelite spies were hidden by Rahab the prostitute and let down by a rope through a window in the wall (Joshua 2:15), and David escaped Saul’s soldiers with the help of Michal, who let him down through the window (1 Samuel 19:12). The biblical parallels show a pattern in which an ignoble escape on one day led to victory on another (Joshua 6:1-25; 1 Samuel 23:1-14).”

These aren’t “woe is me” types of statements, they are a testament to God’s power and strength in weakness and humiliation. If it wasn’t for God’s power, Paul certainly would never have made it through the litany of near-death experiences to bring the gospel so powerfully and genuinely to the Corinthians. That’s partly why he says in 2 Corinthians 4:12, “So death is at work in us, but life in you.”

Erasmus on understanding the Word

If you approach the Scriptures with all humility and with regulated caution, you will perceive that you have been breathed upon by the Holy Will. It will bring about a transformation which is impossible to describe. You will perceive the delights of the Blessed Bridegroom; you will see the riches of Solomon. The hidden treasures of eternal wisdom will be yours. Yet I would caution you. The entrance to this abode of wisdom is narrow. The doorway is low, and there is danger in not stooping when you enter.

–Erasmus, The Handbook of the Militant Christian

Thanks to:
http://englishbibles.blogspot.com/2007/11/hen-scratches-23-11-07.html

Disclaimer: I’ve not read much of Erasmus, but I love this quote.

Christ’s Poverty

2 Corinthians

2 Corinthians 8:9
For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.

What exactly does “poor” mean here? At first glance it would seem that He became poor in a material sense. But logically this would seem to imply that he became poor so that we could become materially rich. This wouldn’t make sense unless you like TV evangelists with big hair.

We don’t even know if in fact He was materially poor. He said he didn’t have a place to lay his head in Matthew 8:20 but that doesn’t necessarily mean he’s poor in that sense.

Garland says in his commentary on 2 Corinthians that, “Becoming poor refers to his ‘emptying himself’ (Phil 2:6 *; see also Rom 15:3; Heb 12:2) and suggests that this is something he did voluntarily. But how does this make us rich? Christ’s incarnation [embodied in flesh] climaxed in his death, and the principle of interchange–he became poor; we became rich–is the same as in 2 Corinthians 5:21: ‘Jesus gave up his righteousness (becoming ‘sin’) in order that believers might become the “righteousness of God.”‘” (Sorry for all those quotation marks.)

Garland quotes C. Lapide:

Christ was made poor that we through His poverty might be rich. He took the form of a servant that we might regain liberty. He descended that we might be exalted. He was tempted that we might overcome. He was despised that He might fill use with glory. He died that we might be saved. He ascended, to draw to Himself those lying prostrate on the ground through sin’s stumblingblock.

*The word “exploited” makes much more sense to me:
Philippians 2:6 NRSV who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited,

What Christmas Is All About

Get More out of Your Bible

From The Blazing Center blog:
8 Ways to Get More out of Your Bible
and
Bible Boost Part II

Be sure to read the comments too.

Regeneration and Spiritual Disciplines

Many Christians have lost or never learned a sound doctrine of regeneration. They believe that the only thing that matters is their standing with God or with the church. They assume that a past decision for Christ or a decision to affiliate with a congregation determines their standing with God. Having made that decision, they make no effort to allow the Spirit to renew them. The Spirit is not imposed upon us, and Christians must engage in spiritual disciplines that make the Spirit’s work possible in changing our lives at the fundamental level. God’s Spirit empowers us to do what we want to do and makes what we want to do to be what is right so that Christlikeness flows from us naturally.

–David Garland, 2 Corinthians

Related Scripture:
Philippians 2:12-13, 2 Peter 1:3-10

Scripture Memory – Why Memorize Scripture?

Here is one of the best articles I’ve seen regarding the benefits of memorizing Scripture and why it’s so essential to the Christian life:
Why Memorize Scripture? by John Piper

A related post on this blog:
Knowing Scripture

A Map of the World of Bible Bloggers

I didn’t realize I was listed on this site until recently. I’m honored. If you’re interested in finding other Bible blogs this may be the most complete list out there:
A Map of the World of Bible Bloggers

Santa Christ

The book In Christ Alone: Reflections on the Heart of the Gospel by Sinclair B. Ferguson has a chapter called Santa Christ. You will find the whole chapter and two others within the sample PDF file:
http://www.wtsbooks.com/pdf_files/9781567690897.pdf (1 MB)

I have included an excerpt here:

The Scriptures systematically strip away the veneer that covers the real truth of the Christmas story. Jesus did not come to add to our comforts. He did not come to help those who were already helping themselves or to fill life with more pleasant experiences. He came on a deliverance mission, to save sinners, and to do so He had to destroy the works of the Devil (Matt. 1:21; 1 John 3:8 b).

Those whose lives were bound up with the events of the first Christmas did not find His coming an easy and pleasurable experience.

Mary and Joseph’s lives were turned upside down.

The shepherds’ night was frighteningly interrupted, and their futures
potentially radically changed.

The magi faced all kinds of inconvenience and family separation.

Our Lord Himself, conceived before wedlock, born probably in a cave, would spend His early days as a refugee from the bloodthirsty and vindictive Herod (Matt. 2:13-21).

There is, therefore, an element in the Gospel narratives that stresses that the coming of Jesus is a disturbing event of the deepest proportions. It had to be thus, for He did not come merely to add something extra to life, but to deal with our spiritual insolvency and the debt of our sin. He was not conceived in the womb of Mary for those who have done their best, but for those who know that their best is “like filthy rags” (Isa. 64:6)—far from good enough—and that in their flesh there dwells no good thing (Rom. 7:18). He was not sent to be the source of good experiences, but to suffer the pangs of hell in order to be our Savior.